The Endless Pursuit Of Awesome
Professional skateboarder Jason Ellis has a new calling.
Jason Ellis is washed up. Or so he claims. In fact, the 40-year-old says that he’s been washed up for the past two decades, but that’s difficult to believe when you see him in action. Ellis—a retired professional skateboarder who currently hosts The Jason Ellis Show on Sirius XM—began training MMA with Team Quest in 2007 and felt the urge to compete in a sanctioned bout. Two years later, the Australian-bred dynamo made his pro debut.
“I’m a huge MMA fan who is—I don’t know—stupid enough, crazy enough, smart enough to step in there and fucking mix it up,” says Ellis. “This is not my career. I’m just doing it for my pleasure. I know it’s gonna end soon, and I appreciate every moment of pretending I’m a fighter.”
A late bloomer to the sport, Ellis discovered MMA in 2007 while surfing YouTube. He initially saw Bob Sapp defeat Ernesto Hoost in a K-1 bout, but he also caught the Dan Henderson knockout of Wanderlei Silva at Pride 33. Around that time, the Sirius XM host became friends with Muay Thai Champion Kit Cope and traveled every weekend from his residence in Temecula, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to learn Muay Thai.
That long-distance commute took a turn when Ellis broke his wrist. He visited a doctor in Temecula who had Henderson as a client, and the doc told him about the UFC light heavyweight’s gym in nearby Murrieta. The “Prince of All Media” paid the guys at Team Quest a visit, and Ryan Parsons agreed to train Ellis in exchange for skateboarding lessons. The next week, he was in the ring sparring
with Henderson and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
“Basically, all the guys in the gym were friends who were learning how to beat each other up,” Ellis says. “I was learning how to defend somebody shooting on me and learning four-punch combinations— it was a buzz. As soon as that started to happen, I remember calling my wife and telling her I just learned an armbar. It reminded me of how I used to be when I was skateboarding. When I learned a new trick, I’d be super pumped. I’d want to tell everybody, so it reminded me of
being a kid again—getting to learn something that I loved all over again. I never thought I’d find anything I’d ever care about like I did with skateboarding, but MMA is a big thing for me.”
Ellis also fine-tuned his stand-up skills at Fortune Gym in Hollywood, California, and he even participated in an amateur boxing contest in 2008 against Brett Cooke, which Ellis won via KO in round one.
Riveted with excitement, the multi-talented athlete agreed to make his pro MMA debut in 2009 against BJJ player Tony Gianopulos at Ryan Sheckler’s charity event Down For Life: Fight For a Cause. Jason “Mayhem” Miller and “King” Mo Lawal coached Ellis as he impressively avoided all of his opponent’s submission advances and, ironically, tapped out Gianopulos via rear naked choke in the second round.
“I wanted to knock him out,” Ellis says. “I don’t really have many submissions, but he gave me his head because I finally wore him out.” He was offered a three-fight deal from a Canadian fight promotion afterward, but he politely declined it. Although Ellis hasn’t fought another MMA bout since, he is currently training for his pro boxing debut, planning to take a Muay Thai bout soon after, and plotting a return to the cage for his second MMA fight.
Ellis is also slated to compete at his bi-annual event EllisMania: Full Contact Stupidity. He participated in years previous, including against “Mayhem” in a Bully Beatdown-themed fight where, the radio host boasts, “If it were for money, I would have won $5,000 because I didn’t get knocked out.”
EllisMania turned into a television series in 2011. The show, which airs on FUEL TV, features regular folks battling one another in MMA fights with unique stipulations, such as being blindfolded or wearing electric dog collars.
“I figured my fans would want to be involved in fighting, but you can’t organize fighting with people who have never trained before with the same rules as normal fighting, because then you’re just arranging for your fans to kill each other,” he says with a laugh. “My show is always about trying to be funny, but it’s like fighting in the funniest way possible, where you can still compete and still try to hurt each other, but nobody goes to the hospital.”
Ellis, however, has gone to the hospital plenty of times. He talks about that, and much more, in his autobiography I’m Awesome: One Man’s Triumphant Quest to Become the Sweetest Dude Ever! with Mike Tully. Although Ellis starts and concludes I’m Awesome with his MMA debut, it concentrates on his rise from Australian loner to popular yet underpaid international skateboarding sensation, who later discovers a new career in radio that feeds his desire to entertain people.
“The book takes you from my childhood to my current status, and if you would have tried to sum it up quickly, the goal was to be awesome,” he says. “Whether you think it or not is beside the point. The book is about a guy who is really giving it a serious whack at trying to be awesome at a bunch of shit. That’s my thing. I love being good at stuff. That’s what I love to do.”
Ellis isn’t good at everything. In fact, he’s pretty awful at bowling, fishing, and surfing. But this old dog is better at learning new tricks than most young people, and at this rate, he won’t be washed up anytime soon.
“I never thought I’d find anything I’d ever care about like I did with skateboarding, but MMA is a big thing for me.”